It has been an exciting couple of years cruising. We have really learned a lot and we have so much more to learn. One of the many things on the learning curve is how to communicate with friends and family back home and with other cruisers. It can take a bit of patience and planning sometimes.
One of the important forms of communication is internet. Many cruisers have unlocked GSM cellphones. Once they clear customs they walk to the nearest place to buy a SIM card for the country they are visiting. Calls from the Bahamas are $1 per minute for international phone calls to the USA and Canada. For this reason, we mostly just buy data and use the phone as a hot spot. A lot of cruisers we know use Skype or Google Hangouts to make calls to the USA. All of the above require reasonably good internet reception. Enter, creativity of the cruising world–and a little physics as well.
The Bahama Islands are sparsely populated. Sometimes the closet cell phone tower is miles away. Last year a cruiser told us that if we send our cellphone up one of our masts we will get better reception. Cell phones are line of sight. If we can get the phone high enough we can usually get reception from a cellphone tower miles away. It works! It works really well! Hoisting the phone up the mast works about 90% of the time. We usually will get some signal even if it is sporadic or slow. There are still times when we are in places that are too isolated and too far from a tower where we don’t have any service at all.
Here is how it works:
All the while Mark yells through an open hatch, “GOT IT!” or “IS IT UP YET?! We try various heights, change from one mast to the other, sometimes we reboot and then…BINGO! INTERNET! We are happily communicating with the world again….for however long it lasts……
Communications on a Boat-Part two to come later!